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What To Expect In The 2016 Presidential Announcement Season

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Goodbye to 2014. Hello 2016. Blame it on Twitter and Facebook posts last week from Jeb Bush saying he's actively exploring a run for president. As NPR's Don Gonyea reports, it signals an unofficial announcement season for White House hopefuls.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Cue the campaign theme songs.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GOD BLESS THE USA")

LEE GREENWOOD: (Singing) And I'm proud to be an American where at least I know I'm free.

GONYEA: Or this one...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DON'T STOP")

FLEETWOOD MAC: (Singing) Don't stop thinking about tomorrow.

GONYEA: But before the campaign tunes come the campaign announcements. We'll see a steady stream of them in the next three months. Jeb Bush has not formally declared as a candidate, but he's sounding and looking like one. Take this from an interview with Miami's WPLG TV.

(SOUNDBITE OF INTERVIEW)

JEB BUSH: Winning with purpose, winning with meaning, winning with your integrity is what I'm trying to talk about.

GONYEA: Mark McKinnon, who worked on both of George W. Bush's presidential campaigns, says he's surprised to see Jeb Bush signal his intentions so early. He says Bush's main calculation may have been a preemptive strike against Mitt Romney.

MARK MCKINNON: Romney was starting to make a lot of noises about getting in again. And I think that Jeb Bush just wanted to make it clear that he's going to be the establishment guy this time around.

GONYEA: Still, Bush is not yet officially in the race. So far, there's only one person who has formed an exploratory committee, making them a candidate under federal election law. That's former U.S. Senator, author and military veteran James Webb, who made his announcement on YouTube last month.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO)

JAMES WEBB: I learned long ago, on the battlefields of Vietnam, that in a crisis there is no substitute for clear-eyed leadership.

GONYEA: It's early for such announcements but not unheard of. In 2007, Hillary Clinton was in by January, joining an already crowded field.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HILLARY CLINTON: I'm not just starting a campaign, though. I'm beginning a conversation with you, with America, because we all need to be part of the discussion if we're all going to be part of the solution.

GONYEA: There were so many early entrance to the '08 race because both the Democratic and Republican nominations were up for grabs, just like 2016. Eight years ago, Senator Barack Obama would hold his big kickoff in Springfield, Illinois, just weeks after Clinton. He drew a huge crowd in the frigid cold.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: But in my heart, I know you didn't just come here for me. No...

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: You came here because you believe in what this country can be.

GONYEA: An early start means you need to raise more cash to sustain a longer candidacy, but it gives you a head start in lining up donors and staff. Getting in late may be tempting. You'd let the field thin itself out a bit. That's what Texas Governor Rick Perry tried four years ago. But if you stumble, there's no time to recover. Just ask Perry about his oops moment. Of course, your fans can get restless waiting for your big announcement and jump in to fill the void. Take this pro-Hillary Clinton music video that caused a brief sensation on the web last month.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Singing) She fights for country and the family. Now it's time for us to stand up with Hillary.

GONYEA: OK, so maybe that one won't exactly top the charts. That song was produced by a super PAC called Stand With Hillary - not to be confused with the super PAC Ready For Hillary, which is kind of a campaign organization in waiting, which is different from Ready For Warren, which wants Senator Elizabeth Warren to run. This will all be sorted out as announcement season plays out. It will be a crowded field - cue the campaign songs. Don Gonyea, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.